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Showing posts from February, 2013

What is Miller's Magical Number Seven? How has it influenced the way we teach languages?

The psychologist George A Miller had an incalculable influence on the new academic discipline of cognitive science and the still disputed notion of psycho-linguistics. His research focussed on working memory - the way the mind processes information.  He observed that the brain
encountering the unfamiliar, could absorb roughly seven new things at a time.When asked to repeat a random list of letters, words or numbers, he wrote, people got stuck “somewhere in the neighborhood of seven.”
Some people could recall nine items on the list, some fewer than seven. But regardless of the things being recalled — colors and tastes, numbers with decimals, numbers without decimals, consonants, vowels — seven was the statistical average for short-term storage. (Long-term memory, which followed another cognitive formula, was virtually unlimited.) From NYT obituary 02/08/2012
Why is Miller's work important for language teachers?
In practical terms this means that the mind best processes new data by w…

What is a descriptivist? A prescriptivist?

How many new words are entering the English language?

According to new research, the English language has doubled in size over the last century. It continues to grow 'by 8,500 words a year' and now stands at 1,022,000 words.'  And the speed of this growth is accelerating: 
The language has grown by more than 70 per cent since 1950 .... The previous half century it only grew by 10 per cent ...    sourceAre all these new words in the dictionary?English does not have an equivalent version of the Académie française. The only official recognition comes with an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Interestingly much of this new vocabulary has not been formally recognised. Nearly half of the new words are not included in any dictionary and are dubbed lexical "dark matter". They are either slang or invented jargon.Why does the OED restrict the words it includes?Because there are so many words in English! The OED is already more than three times bigger than the equivalent dictionary for any other language. In a post fo…